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If you are ever physically assaulted by your partner or spouse or reasonably believe you could be, the first thing to do is contact emergency services and get out of the situation as quickly as you can. Domestic violence is a serious crime and it can leave more than just physical scars, especially if your children are present and witnessing it between their parents. Once you have removed yourself from the situation, report the incident to the police. Failing to file reports against the perpetrator can make it more difficult for you to prove your case later.
At Burnham Law, we have worked on many divorce cases where domestic violence has occurred, and the perpetrator has been charged. We have represented victims in the criminal proceedings, so they understand what is happening and have someone to advocate for them. This experience also makes us uniquely positioned to make sure the serious issue of domestic violence is reflected in the divorce proceedings, where it is also relevant.
Domestic violence can occur in a manner other than in the form of physical violence. Emotional abuse and manipulative actions have similar if not the same impact on you and your children. Domestic violence is a complex and emotional reality that many live.The cyclical nature of domestic violence involves ongoing control using emotional, physical and other forms of domestic violence. The cycle of domestic violence is difficult to escape, but your attorneys at Burnham Law are here to help you navigate the legal process in order to help rebuild and regain.
In matters involving children, Colorado law focuses on the best interests of the child. C.R.S. § 14-10-124. The court will consider a multitude of factors, including but not limited to the presence or history of domestic violence committed by a party. Domestic violence is defined by Colorado law as an act of violence or a threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship, and may include any act or threatened act against a person or against property, including an animal, when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.
The court need only find by a preponderance of the evidence that a party has committed an act of domestic violence, has engaged in a pattern of domestic violence, or has a history of domestic violence, in order to decide that it is not in the best interest of the child to allocate mutual or joint decision-making responsibility and parenting time. The evidentiary standard applied in domestic matters, preponderance of the evidence, is a lower threshold of proof than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, with which we are most familiar. In applying this standard, a court must only find that the fact or event presented was more likely than not to have occurred. In some instances, a court may order a party to submit to a domestic violence evaluation to assess the ability of the party to participate in decision-making or exercise parenting time now and in the future.
Occurrences of domestic violence can also influence how a court analyzes a modification request and hearing involving parenting time and decision-making responsibility. In modifications, it does not matter if the domestic violence occurred before or after the prior decree. When the court finds that a child’s present environment endangers his or her physical health or emotional development, a court can order a modification that substantially change the parenting time as well as with whom the child resides a majority of the time. A modification of decision-making responsibility will also consider endangerment to the child and how retaining the prior orders would negatively impact the child’s physical health and emotional development. The court will analyze post-decree modifications with the principal argument of the best interests of the child.
Children are often used as tools for a party to assert power and control in post-separation issues. Recognizing the signs of this dynamic early on can help to prevent your child from being used for another party’s gain. This dynamic is illustrated in the figure below(click to enlarge).